Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Waiting for a plane

This is a follow-on from my previous post.

Mrs S and I were at Vancouver airport just before ten pm local time 21st December 2010 waiting for the first Heathrow to Vancouver British Airways flight for five days. All right Nigel, the bloody thing flies over the North Atlantic, Greenland, Baffin Island, The Arctic, Nunavut, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia, so maybe it isn't a true 'Transatlantic' flight. It crosses the bit of the world split by the Atlantic, so, pedantry aside, it's a 'Transatlantic' flight in my book. I'd write you a letter but I can't spell Thrzzzp! So there.

The board gave the estimated time of arrival of British Airways flight BAW0085 as 20:49. That time passed.

In the Arrivals hall were quite a number of expatriate Brits, including myself, collective breath not quite held. The atmosphere at the end of the gate exit was subdued, expectant, even tense. We knew the flight was definitely on its way, yet no-one including myself, appeared quite certain whether their loved ones were actually on board. All most of us were doing was living in hope, indulging in various forms of nervous displacement activity, pacing, talking quietly, fiddling with iPhones and Blackberrys, watching other passengers come in on other flights with not a little muted jealousy. Occasional officials, including one of the Airports RCMP detachment were gently interrogated upon their interpretations of what the difference in time meant. Anything was worse than not knowing.

At approximately 21:20, the board changed, showing BAW0085 as 'landed'. There was no massed sigh or relief, but people who had been walking back and forth in the arrivals hall gravitated to the end of the arrivals gate. A sense of expectancy became almost palpable as the crowd watched the video feed from the arrivals hall. Another flight had landed ahead of the first BA flight out since Heathrow had been virtually shut down. Those passengers filtered out, but the crowd at the Arrivals gate just stood, eyes fixed on the monitor.

About thirty five minutes later, the first passengers from Heathrow came filtering through in ones and two's. One lady stumbled through the gate looking as though she was on her last vestiges of life, until an excited little girl hurtled up the walkway to hug her legs. As for other greetings, there were individual little vignettes of joy, but nothing spectacular. One girl ran right up the the clear glass doors, hopping from foot to foot in impatience and unable to contain her relief. Hugs and red roses were much in evidence, but it was hard to tell if this wasn't the arrival of a routine flight, not the first return from five days stuck in Heathrow.

I did think of videoing some of the rendezvous, but then stopped on the grounds that I felt it would be too intrusive. This was other people's life, not mine, and to graphically document others deeply private moments goes against the grain of my core beliefs.

Visitors and returnees from the UK gave the full gamut of acknowledgement, from foot stamping little dances of joy, to almost embarrassed half waves. Some had luggage, others not. Most looked as though they were well overdue a shower and fresh clothing. All seemed thoroughly relieved simply to have made it to Vancouver. No big fuss, no crowd scenes, just happy people filtering away until the mob around the Arrivals gate looked quite threadbare.

About 10:23, Mrs S, hitherto leaning against one of the pastel yellow two metre thick pillars supporting the upper Departures concourse, gestured to me to join her. "Bill. Have a look at this." I wandered over and took up station watching the Arrivals Hall monitor screens. About ten minutes late, to my knee sagging relief we saw our two girls; deeply in need of a shower and clean up, wearing borrowed clothing, but very much here, and looking more than a little tired and travelworn. I tried to take some pictures coming through the gate, but they shied away. "I look awful. Don't take my picture." So the Camera was pocketed, unused.

"Show us your passports." Mrs S said, and our girls entertained us with an almost breathless recounting of their encounter with Canadian Immigration, which was relatively painless. There were also several anecdotes about their tribulations at Heathrow, which they, bless them, coped with magnificently. With less than 19 days to go before their Visa expiry deadline, they had 'Landed' as Permanent Residents of Canada.

We took the Skytrain out to Yaletown and wandered through Vancouver to our Hotel, leaving them in their hotel room to argue about who got to have the first shower. Later we feted them with Champagne, and Mrs S delivered an impromptu speech in which she praised her daughter resourcefulness and steadiness of nerve. Crusty old Stepdad (Me) simply added his agreement until his face ached with smiling. Tired girls then went off to bed, and Mrs S and I let our knees sag with relief.

Our initial reaction?

We've done it. We're proud as punch of our two. They met almost insuperable obstacles and succeeded where others lost out.

Any other reaction?

Now if you'll excuse me, I intend to drink a little more than UK government 'approved' guidelines.


Bill said...

Great news. You and your family are now free of the EU/Cleggeron/Liblabcon hell hole.

Merry Christmas to you all.

delcatto said...

Congratulations! I can only second the above sentiments.

Scoakat said...

Wonderful! All my best to you and yours this holiday season, Bill.

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